Royal Marines join US Navy assault ship for European exercises

Royal Marines joined their U.S. counterparts aboard the USS Whidbey Island assault ship as it entered European waters to begin a deployment with the USS Wasp battle group.

The USS Whidbey Island is an assault ship – a slightly smaller version of Britain’s Albion and Bulwark which uses hovercraft rather than landing craft to put up to 500 troops ashore.

The men of 42 Commando are in the early stages of a 12-month training regime which will see them taking over as the UK’s lead commando group.

Once aboard the Whidbey Island, Royal Marines undertook martial arts training with Americans, observed amphibious assault vehicles in action, shot the M4 carbine – the US equivalent of the SA80 – and M27 service rifles – counterpart of the Royal Marines’ L129A1– observed US bomb disposal technicians at work and learned about the USMC’s 120mm mortar (the heaviest mortar the commandos fire is the 81mm).

“I think doing things like this increases our ability to work with each other,” said 1Lt Kyle Jackson, a rifle platoon commander with Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. “Getting to meet and understand the Royal Marines allows us to develop a better relationship with them.”

Before returning to their base near Plymouth, the Brits were treated to some US Navy/USMC hospitality: a steel beach picnic: Marines. Games. Picnic. Steel beach.

“Everyone from Juliet Company enjoyed the steel beach event,” said L/Cpl Alex Johns. “It was a good atmosphere – and it was also a good way to get away from a normal working environment.”